Enterprise 2.0: Collaboration Trends on the Intranet

In the spring edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review, Harvard Business School associate professor Andrew McAfee writes about the emergence of web 2.0-esque collaboration technologies within enterprise settings. Tools typically used on the web are starting to be used in the enterprise collaboration platform-space (otherwise known as intranets and/or portals). Used internally for companies to share and disseminate information, intranets offer a perfect venue for easy-to-use authoring tools and bottom-up content classification systems.

McAfee outlines 5 such elements of his “Enterprise 2.0” hypothesis, borrowing from the Web 2.0 buzzword-du-jour. He calls them “SLATES” which stand for Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extensions, and Signals.

Search is an obvious component to a successful intranet: the powerful ability for search engines to crawl large collections of content and for users to easily find the content they are looking for.

Links power the relevance or perceived importance of material, like Google’s page-rank algorithm. Linking on the intranet is as important as linking on the web in general to aid findability and increase content significance.

Authoring, and in particular easy authoring by all intranet users, is crucial for any content-rich environment (who’s putting it all there? and how?).

Tags are the bottom-up classification system, the ability for users to associate keywords with content and create navigational structures based on their group keywording activities.

Extensions are the pattern-matching capabilities of “if you liked that content, you may find this content interesting” that aid in further navigation of content by revealing patterns in meta-data previously hidden from users. And finally…

Signals are automated mechanisms that tell a user when new content has been created, best demonstrated by RSS feeds and email alerts.

Ultimately, these tools support an intranet that becomes a Simple, Free Platform for Self-Expression, as McAfee writes in his follow-up blog post about the underlying trends powering the adoption of these techniques.

We firmly believe that providing companies with a simple platform for self-expression is crucial to gaining intranet user acceptance. The benefits of intranets have been touted by many for close to 10 years now. But providing bottom-up classification systems, easy authoring, powerful search, and exposing the social aspects of how information is created, by whom, and what others think about the information is an important shift in collaboration theory and practice. “Democratizing intranets” was one expression we used to describe this practice when attempting to explain our collaborative intranet product ThoughtFarmer to some of our clients over the last year. McAfee’s article resonated with me and and the rest of our team that has committed the last year to making these ideas come to life.

And based on some of the fantastic feedback from our recent ThoughtFarmer installation, it sound like the users agree.